Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Eating too little?

Over the course of the last few months, I must admit, I had turned into a ravening squirrel beast. My evening eating habits were bordering on out of control.

Peanut butter straight out of the container with a spoon? Don't mind if I do!

One extra package of granola bars? *nom*

It had gotten pretty bad.

I was starting to worry that I might not get it under control, when one day I came across a post in the CalorieKing forums. The post talked about how to add back calories for maintenance and asked other maintainers how many calories they consume on a daily basis. I was startled, shocked even, to find out that several of the newer maintainers were only eating between 1400-1600 gross calories a day. Many don't even eat their exercise calories back.

I've read the small amounts of research done on long-term weight loss maintainers which indicates that our hunger hormones don't function quite correctly and that perhaps our bodies really do need less calories than a person who has never been overweight. But I take every study I read with a grain of salt, most especially research on populations that haven't been thoroughly studied. I believe long-term weight loss maintainers are just that kind of population.

My initial reaction to the numbers I was seeing was that that could not possibly be enough calories to maintain a healthy amount of lean mass. Nearly every bit of sports nutrition literature I've read indicates that an athlete, even a recreational one such as myself, needs to eat at least 2000 kcal a day to properly rebuild lean mass. At a net of 1650 kcal a day, I realized was not eating nearly enough for my activity level. I'm sure that this is clearly obvious to someone who doesn't live in my head.

I was keeping myself at a low level of calories because I was (and still am) afraid. The fear of eating too much isn't an easy fear to shed when you spent eight years of your life being the fat girl. Everywhere you turn people are spouting the overly simplified statement of "eat less, weigh less." It's almost counter intuitive to increase calorie intake to see a downward trend in body fat percentage, but that's what I've been doing for the last two weeks. I gave up on logging with Calorie King because I found Cronometer after reading one of Lisa's posts a while back. It's allowing me to track all my vitamins and minerals in addition to the standard macronutrients.

How's the increased intake been going so far? The results have been heartening. My evening ravening squirrel beast episodes have ceased, I've felt stronger in my workouts and I'm feeling tighter and more muscular all over. I'm thinking that this will help me get the nutrition half of the equation down solidly for my 10K goal in June.

Do you struggle with trying to find your calorie intake sweet spot? What's helped you figure it out?